Viola strings choise

December 22, 2016 at 03:12 PM · Hi, I have actually a 16.5" Gliga GEMS II Viola, I'm using gut strings but I really get ride of the instability (I play in a very humid country).

So, I searched for good synthetic nylon strings with good price :

Pirastro Tonica 40€

Thomastik Dominant 66€

Pirastro Aricore 74€

What's the best deal can bring the best of my instrument ? (I won't change my strings regulary)

Replies (23)

December 22, 2016 at 05:05 PM · Different strings sound different on different instruments. Without hearing your instrument with its current strings, we cannot provide useful advice. All we can say is that those strings may sound good on your instrument, or they may not. You need to try to get luthier to advise you. Or, you can try the cheapest ones first. Good luck!

December 22, 2016 at 05:11 PM · Daddario Pro-Arte are affordable nylon core strings.

December 22, 2016 at 06:43 PM · Corelli Cantiga might be a good choice. I have never tried them on my viola, but on my violin they perform very well and are nicely priced. Also, Warchal Karneol (currently on my viola) are a great set of strings. If you are not sure what type of sound are you looking for (compensating for instrument's deficiencies / weak spots / uneven strings?) Warchal provides a significant discount for 1st time buyers, per each set of strings, one time only. There are a few options and I am sure you will find a good set. Some people reported on those string's relatively short life span, but I have not noticed any degradation on my viola whatsoever.

December 22, 2016 at 06:55 PM · The strings that have worked best on one of my 16" violas are Dominant and Pirastro Permanent (which are probably not synthetic, but steel core). The Permanents are the best I've tried for this viola - although I do have a set of Thomastik Peter Infeld on hand that I will try sometime in the future (it may be far in the future because the Permanents are steel core that will probably last for years). I've also messed around with some mixing of strings including Larsen A, which did not balance well with the Dominants. This viola is rather rough on the C string and I have played around with different strings there, but the thing that helped most was to use a softer rosin - it really smoothed out and powered up when I used the Australian Leatherwood Bespoke supple cello rosin on my bows - that took a little edge off the upper strings but it still has enough and is quite well balanced now.

The other 16" viola also works with Dominants and (surprisingly) with a full set of Spirocore (steel core). The Spirocore did not work at all on the first viola - Evah Pirazzi Gold were too rough on it as well, and I have not tried them on viola-2.

Obviously, violas can be as finicky as cellos wrt strings.

December 22, 2016 at 09:35 PM · @ Seraphim : yes, they cost the same price of Tonica, but Tonica has better reputation...

December 22, 2016 at 10:11 PM · @ Andrew : I'm not a big fan of steel strings...

December 22, 2016 at 11:20 PM · Take a look at the Warchal strings, both the Amber and the Brilliant. I've been using them on my viola for several years now and really like them. They do take a week or so to "break in" and lose the harsh sound, but then they last a long time, sound great, and are very responsive. And, they are not nearly as expensive as Pirastro strings (Obligato). I use the C, G and now D (was using an Obligato D for a while) but with a Larsen A. On my particular viola (16-3/8") it is an unbeatable combination.

December 23, 2016 at 12:42 AM · Hi Amine,

I am not a professional player and also play with a 16.5" viola. My string set is A and D plain gut italian Aquila (HT84 and HT104 or 108) and G and C are nylon core.

Before this I played with only nylon core strings, which had to be changed after 2 months. Then I tried a set from Pirastro Chorda. Good but too thin and the plain gut strings (A and D) began to unravel (hope this is right word in English) after two or three months. With Chorda set there was a "gap" between the plain gut strings and the two others (G and C).

Then I tried the two plain gut Aquila with G and C in nylon core. The Aquilas are in the service for almost one year and they're still good. The nylon ones had been changed three times.

I live in Sao Paulo, a humid region too. I tune the viola in 415 Hz and normally the strings stay ok along the day, except when the weather is too dry or rainy.

The sound is good, there no gap between the strings anymore and this is an affordable solution.

December 23, 2016 at 01:57 AM · @Amine - you have now gotten recommendations for a number of string brands/combinations that are synthetic. Please remember that these recommendations are for strings that sound good on the violas of the people who have posted, and there is no guarantee that any of them will work well for you. Or, a number of them may work for you. But you really have no way of knowing without either asking a luthier to recommend something once s/he hears your viola or trying one recommendation at random.

If we were dealing with a violin, people would probably recommend starting with Dominants because they are considered a standard from which you can judge your violin's sound and decide what strings might sound better. I do not know if the viola Dominants can serve the same purpose for a viola.

I am sorry I cannot be more helpful, and I do not think it would serve any purpose to tell you what strings I use on my viola. I wish you good luck.

December 23, 2016 at 09:17 AM · @ Andre : thank's for your experience, about Aquila gut, it's a pure gut or nylgut ? what's brand of the nylon strings do you have used ?

@ Tom : I think that Dominants are a neutral strings so they can be a standard every where !?

December 23, 2016 at 10:02 AM · If you like sound of gut on your viola, I would stay with nylon/Perlon strings, rather han the newer "composites", where the tone deteriorates faster, and the tension is usually much higher. Here is what I have found on my two very different 15-3/4" violas (one is narrow, the other, fat!).

My latest spare set of Tonica for my viola cost €110! (Paris). They are the "new formula", and may be brighter than before, but I haven't the time (or funds) to compare and record the two unused sets.

Dominant and Aricore have a similar tension to Eudoxa (wound gut); Tonica may be a little more, and I find Pro Arte and Crystal much more. I found Tonica and Crystal "soft" similar.

Tone? Dominant are now the reference, intead of Eudoxa, but they are very grating when new. Tonica are clear and warm, but not harsh. Aricore are velvety and warm. Pro arte are dull, which is compounded by the high tension.

These are very personal reactions, but may be useful, combined with the previous contributions.

I like the avatar: you shouldn't have the usual shoulder problems, nor the dreaded Viola Elbow!!

December 23, 2016 at 10:24 AM · @ Adrian : Yes, I'm not a classical player, I play in orchestra of traditional arabian andalousian music, we have to sing and play instrument, so we can't use the classical way to play violins, we have to put it on the knee (but it's not a stable position to play)...

And in our music, violas have a warm and riche role with some good projection.

Now I have to choose between Dominant and Aricore... I found a lot of good reviews about Dominant and really rare about Aricore, and for the price no one would be suprised if I will go for Dominants ??

December 23, 2016 at 10:33 AM · Violists in general don't like the Dominat A, in general is it changed for a Jargar or Larsen A.

December 23, 2016 at 10:47 AM · @ Luis : Yes, the most used combinations is Jargar A or Larsen A + Evah Pirazzi or Dominants for the rest.

December 23, 2016 at 10:54 AM · Amine,

"About Aquila gut, it's a pure gut or nylgut ? what's brand of the nylon strings do you have used ?"

A and D are pure gut strings: HT-84 (A) and HT-104 or HT-108 (D).

G and C are Dominant.

Nylgut can't be use in bowed instruments.

December 23, 2016 at 01:00 PM · As Luis says, most violists choose a steel or steel-cored A, and I might do so for a concerto, but I prefer a synthetic A: I want a string sound, not a trumpet! A longer, lighter bow-stroke, though.

Aricores are little known. They suit a strident instrument as they have no real "projection", but at least my young students don't wince when they hear them close by..

December 23, 2016 at 02:35 PM · Hi Manfio,

I read an interesting article about viola size by William Castle: viola size.html

The author explains the differences between two violas: Andrea Guarneri 1676 and Maggini, both with body lenght of 16"1/4 (about 41cm).

The main difference between them is the position of the bridge. In Guarneri model the bridge is locate lower than in the Maggini, or in other words, closer to the neck of the violist player. In order to have the same lenght (from the button until the fingerboard nut) the Maggini string lenght (bridge until fingerboard nut) is shorter than Guarneri.

Viola are always different between them. Bouts width, rib height, string lenght, etc. To find two identical I suppose is very difficult, even when they are made by the same luthier.

My question, Manfio, is the sound difference between two violas with the same dimensions but one have the bridge locate lower and the other with the bridge higher. In my example both violas have the same string lenght.

Thanks for your patience.

December 23, 2016 at 03:40 PM · I should be interested to read a reply, as Manfio, like René Morel, uses the same VSL (of 37.5 to 38cm, I believe) whatever the body length; so on the smaller models, the bridge is nearer the player than on the longer ones.

On my 40cm viola, with a VSL of 36.5cm, I did a "quick&dirty" reduction to 35.7 by bringing the nut an bridge closer together, with a new soudpost. This was to relieve my ageing tendons and very short fingers. All reversible, though! The tone has changed very little, neither for better nor worse.

Many old paintings show the bridge way below the f-holes. In "MacLennanThesisComplete.pdf" the author has built a baroque violin, and then transformed it step by step into a modern one, testing and recording at each step. He even tried the bridge below the f-holes, with the soundpost in its original position, and also with it just in front of the newly-placed bridge. The conclusions are frustratingly vague.

December 23, 2016 at 06:05 PM · Andre, I had a Maggini model Viola for a while. The short VSL was nice for the left hand reach. However, as in all things viola; there is always a trade off of some sort. In the case of the Magginni, it was that having the bridge higher up the body caused it to no longer be centered on the C bouts, and that lead to knuckle banging from time to time while bowing. Otherwise, it was a very nice instrument.

December 25, 2016 at 06:37 PM · I accidently bought one of William Castles violas this summer. It is the Guarneri model where he uses a shorter neck which makes it very comfortable to play. The body length is 41 cm and the neck is 14 cm. My previous viola has the same body length but the neck is 15 cm. The Castle viola is a lovely instrument - responds easily and has a beautyful tone. I am still trying to find which strings suits it best. I am currently using Evah gold, but will give passione a try soon.

December 25, 2016 at 10:00 PM · Amine - as one who grew up and started playing when the only steel strings were real cheeps I too had no use for them and played on gut (violin and cello) until the 1970s.

Top quality steel strings are quite universal on cellos now and because the Pirastro Permanents worked so well on two of my cellos and the Pirastro Flexocor were very fine on the third one, I decided to try Permanents on my viola (that loved Dominants and hated Evah Pirazzi Gold) - and I'm glad I did. After "4 home runs" i looked for a similar string for one of my violins and could only find Pirastro Flexocor-Permanent - and my guess was good for that one too - So I've batted 1,000 on these strings - mostly luck, but not entirely. They are quite bright, but have a lot of core sound too.

My two best violins are strung with Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold but with Thomastic Platinum-plated E strings.

December 26, 2016 at 09:07 PM · Warchal Amber are great, warm strings for viola

December 28, 2016 at 11:47 AM · Violas are not standardized. So violists preferences in relation to tone, size and models.

Makers will have different approaches while making a viola, there is much more freedom in relation to the viola when compared to the violin.

If the bridge is located towards the center of the instrument, as in the Maggini model, it will have implications with the string length and neck length. Some makers will use a smaller string length for Maggini models.

I met a viola principal of an Italian orchestra some years ago and he played an original Maggini (on loan). He complained about the neck length (short), but I don't remember the details of the instrument.

I just make violas based in the Andrea Guarneri model and have no experience with Brescian models.

I do prefer remaining safe with a model that I am familiar with rather than risking. I keep notes of it so I can replicate my results.

Violas are unmerciful with makers, if you make something wrong you can have some of the problems associated with violas (too narrow dynamic range, unfocused sound, slow response, dead C string, wolves).

A good thing today is that there are many makers specialized in violas, and that is very good for viola players.

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